• Sweden edition
 
Op-Ed
'Using the F word disrespects immigrants'
File photo: Shutterstock

'Using the F word disrespects immigrants'

Published: 08 Apr 2014 07:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Apr 2014 07:36 GMT+02:00

Growing up close to the Mexican border, I inevitably learned the Spanish phrase "puta madre". I tried it once on my mother, to immediate rebuttal. I was told never to use it again. As a child, I didn’t get it. It wasn’t my language, it meant nothing to me.

I was seven and I was living in a town where 75 percent of the residents spoke Spanish. Obviously, that phrase was going to offend quite a few people.

It was only years later, as an adult, living in the great melting pot of New York City that I understood what it meant to show respect in a multicultural society- and how and why not to tread on toes.

Today, Sweden has become the melting pot of cultures that South Texas and other areas have been for years. The parallel is remarkable. And just like me, at seven, being attracted to exotic words in a new language, the Gothenburg owners of A Fucking Awesome Sandwich seem not to have understood the actual gravity of their choice of word.

READ ALSO: 'Hey expats, let Swedes swear in English' - The Local columnist Paul Connolly defends Gothenburg eatery

Multiculturalism isn't easy, which the rise of the Sweden Democrats shows us. There are kinks at every turn. Although I feel sure that the owner doesn’t sees it at this level, or intended to cause offence, the use of "The F Word in “A F***ing Awesome Sandwich” is just another obvious kink in this cultural mashup.

"The F word” offends many immigrants, who have known its explosive character since childhood. It also upset the native Swedes who have learned that it is offensive to a great many people. The Swedes that get it have been taught, as my mother taught me about “puta madre”, that the word is offensive. Not to everyone, but to a great deal of people. 

READ ALSO: Parents freaking upset about offensive sandwich

Few immigrants to Sweden that I know would take the worst profanities in the Swedish language and bandy them about as though they were a cute joke. So why is it OK for native Swedes to take a profanity from English - lingua franca to many immigrants not only Americans, Indians, many Africans, and Brits - and throw it about as though it means nothing? There is an “elephant in the room” in Sweden that is about to roar.

That elephant is what I perceive to be a lack of respect for immigrants. Swedes expect immigrants to adapt and learn, to pay respect to the Swedish culture, which they do daily, but do Swedes also adapt and learn what a multicultural society demands of them in terms of respect?

With the sandwich shop owner 's use of this phrase, I see no apparent effort to return the respect. I get that personal insult feeling that many immigrants get from a Swedish native. “We know you are there, but we don’t really care.” Again, I reiterate, I speak not of the owner's intentions, but of the effect of his choice as I see it.

The kinks in the Swedes growth into a multicultural society continue.

The shop owner’s use of that phrase sends a message: “We do not care if this is offensive to you or to your children. The loss of your patronage won’t really dent our profit, so why would we care about you?"

If Sweden wants to be the fabulous multicultural society that many now claim it to be, people have to realize that respect works both ways.

Karen Rowland is an American designer married to a Swede. Her family until recently lived in Gothenburg, where Rowland was active in a network for American expat women. 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

Business and Money
Global profit boost for Handelsbanken
Handelsbanken is Sweden's second largest bank. Photo: Bertil Eriksson/TT

Global profit boost for Handelsbanken

Sweden's second-largest bank, Handelsbanken, has reported a rise in third-quarter profits, boosted by higher income from its loan book as it continues its expansion overseas. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search
Navy vessels remain in the archipelago. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search

Sweden is pulling back part of the naval operation which has been searching for a suspected Russian submarine off the coast of Stockholm for nearly a week. READ  

Julian Assange
Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in the UK. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he is "confident" his asylum status will be resolved, as he awaits an imminent ruling on his case by a Swedish court. READ  

Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

The Local List
Eight things to love about renting in Sweden
Apartments in Sweden are compact. Photo: Shutterstock

Eight things to love about renting in Sweden

A housing crisis means that short-term sublets are the norm in major cities and rent regulation rules are frequently flouted. But this week, The Local's decided to look on the bright side of renting an apartment in Sweden. READ  

Business & Money
Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain
Nordea's Chief Executive Christian Clausen. Photo: TT

Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain

Swedish bank Nordea announced on Wednesday a sharp rise in third quarter profits despite the economic slowdown and major outlays for an IT overhaul. READ  

National
Knutby priest faces early release from prison
Knutby in eastern Sweden, the scene of the murder. Photo: TT

Knutby priest faces early release from prison

A former priest in eastern Sweden who was sentenced to life in prison for organizing the murder of his wife has had his sentence reduced. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

979
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN